Dry erase/whiteboards walls and me?
September 25, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

My animation company is moving into our first real office and we want to make a very large "brainstorming wall" with a dry erase surface so that we can collaborate and share ideas more intuitively.

We are an animation company moving from a bunch of people working at home into our first office. I'm really excited about this because we'll be able brainstorm together without the intermediary of Skype. I want to make our new space as collaborative and creativity-nurturing as possible. To that end, I want to cover an entire wall of our office (~100 sq. ft.) in dry erase surface so that we can sketch out ideas together for sequences, characters, etc. Ideally I'd like this wall to also be magnetic so we could put up paper sketches or other multimedia materials and not break the brainstorming flow.

I have seen this question but it was posted in 2005 and asserts that there is no one selling dry erase paint anymore, which I'm pretty sure is not true. Lifehacker posted this in 2008 about Markee which sells gallons for about $100 and I have also discovered IdeaPaint who appear to be about twice the cost. My question is whether any one out there has used these products (or similar) and how successful they were? Was it helpful? Is this a good idea? Bonus answers as to how to involve the magnetic part.
posted by alexherder to Technology (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Several ideas at here. I've seen glass dry-erase boards that are pretty bright (but not as bright as real, white dry-erase boards). Glass might be just as expensive as those dry-erase paints.
posted by tayknight at 7:44 AM on September 25, 2009

go to your local lowes/home depot etc and purchase "shower board". comes in 4x4 and 4x8 (foot) sections. easy to install for you or a contractor (its basically just thin shiny paneling).

for magnetic bonus points you could experiment with putting cheap sheet metal behind it and using those tiny powerful magnets that are available in hardware stores.
posted by chasles at 7:45 AM on September 25, 2009

Joel of Joel on Software generally recommends (can't find the exact link) glass whiteboard surfaces for their being easy to clean and not having the surface degrade. I would suspect that glass will work out better for you than a different surface.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:46 AM on September 25, 2009

I just did this a couple of months ago for my own workroom.

Here is what I did:
-Cut sheet metal to the correct dimensions.
-Screwed these to the raw drywall.
-Skim-coated this with drywall mud to conceal the screws and metal.
-Sanded to a perfectly flat finish using 200 grit, then 600 grit.
-Painted wall as usual with 1/4" nap roller.
-Taped off what I wanted to be the whitebaord area (in my case it was 4'x32').
-Applied 4 coats of oil-based Rustoleum paint, (sanding to perfectly smooth between coats).
-Applied 3 coats of whiteboard paint, sanding with 600 then 800 grit between each.
-Did not sand top coat to keep it flat.

It has worked pretty well.

I had some problems with ghosting of the markers for the first month or so, but I am happy with the result overall. When the buildup gets bad, it cleans up well with whiteboard cleaner.

Some tips:
-The wall needs to be perfectly flat. The whitebaord paint directions say to use a dense sponge roller, but I found that the orange-peel effect was too strong. I used a 4" dense foam brush using only up and down movements.
-The whitboard paint is runny. REALLY runny. You have to get a feel for it.
-Because it is a kind of epoxy, you have to work fast the final layers. I think you have 2 hours before it sets.
-Do not try to freehand it. I taped off the edges and then built out the oil layers before the epoxy paint.
-I used the Rustoleum brand of whiteboard paint. I tested a number of others, both epoxy and oil paints. Everything I tested held on to the pigment of the marker too much.

It was so worth the work and prep. I now have this clean stripe around my workroom I can write on anywhere. I am not sure if Facebook will link, but here is an image. You can see the stripe around the wall on the left.
posted by Tchad at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I believe my friend's employer (a biotech company) used IdeaPaint about three months ago when they moved into a new building. It's all over the place, looks good, and is very usable (easy to write on and wipe off) and people use it a lot. I haven't seen Markee in person. The most obvious difference is that it goes on clear, which may or may not be a benefit for you.

In my experience, magnetic paint is very difficult to apply well. I did three coats on board, applied when the surface was horizontal, and I just couldn't get the paint to remain mixed enough from one brush stroke to the next for the metal to be applied. On a vertical wall, I think it would be even harder to apply evenly.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:49 AM on September 25, 2009

Oh, I also wanted to mention - I tried painting the back of glass and then using the unpainted side, but the glare from my worklights was too strong. It was essentially like writing on a dull mirror and became hard to see directly sometimes. Up close it was fine, but it became convoluted at about 5 or more feet away. It depends on your lighting.
posted by Tchad at 7:52 AM on September 25, 2009

American Science and Surplus carries large DIY dry-erase sheets (29inx10ft) that stick to walls, 10 for $12.50-- you could tile a ginormous wall with those.
posted by Bardolph at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2009

Showerboard/tileboard from Home Depot or equivalent. I suggest making simple wooden frames for the boards which you can then attach to the wall. We use WET ERASE markers for maximum come-clean-ness, and it works quite well. I don't think this method can be beat from a $/sq. ft standpoint.
posted by entropic at 8:21 AM on September 25, 2009

The nice stuff is PolyVision's Ceramicsteel--made by a Steelcase company, looks like it should last forever, and can be recycled when you're done with it, too.
It's also magnetic, which is more useful than you'd think, and cleans more easily than the melamine flavor. I have a single framed sheet, and can vouch for its quality; however, I bought it secondhand, and I bet it costs a petty penny. A few years ago, Cool Tools cited a price of $200/4 x 8 sheet, so you're looking at at least $600 to cover 100 ft^2.
posted by pullayup at 8:37 AM on September 25, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all for your answers. Tchad, is your wall magnetic? It sounds like it could be but you didn't say specifically.
posted by alexherder at 8:38 AM on September 25, 2009

Yes. I used ductwork type sheet metal over the drywall. Because it is an actual piece of metal, I can practically throw a magnet from two feet away and it sticks. I tried samples of the magnetic paint and it wasn't as strong as I would have liked.

Also: It would have been cheaper to buy whiteboard, but I did not want it to be applied to the wall - I wanted it to read as a continuous wall, no frames or edges.
posted by Tchad at 9:39 AM on September 25, 2009

Seconding IdeaPaint--a library I used to work at painted a bunch of walls in conference/meeting rooms with the stuff and it was great (though the fumes were awful and took a few days to dissipate).
posted by leesh at 9:51 AM on September 25, 2009

As an experiment, I just painted the back of a piece of Lucite with ceiling paint. A couple of coats and it made a fine dry erase board. I can't vouch for its durability, since I just did it this morning. But it looks fine in a well lit room. A little dimmer than a regular white-board in regular or low lighting.
posted by gjc at 3:39 PM on September 25, 2009

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